Home page Jews in the Wild West Fremont's 1846 Expedition Jews in the Civil War History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 4.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

We remained at the Methodist Mission until the next day, when we proceeded to the Shawnee Mission, a few miles further, and camped for the night. It was at this spot that Mr. Max Strobel made his appearance. He had been attached to Col. Stevens' expedition, but had left it on account of some misunderstanding with the officer in command. He requested Col. Fremont to allow him to accompany his expedition as a volunteer, and he would contribute his services as assistant topographer, &c. Col. Fremont hesitated, as his company was complete, but finally yielded to his continued entreaties. Col. Fremont, who had been slightly indisposed during the day, finding himself worse, decided to return to Westport, requesting us to continue on our journey until we met the Delawares, and then to encamp and await his return. The Col. returned to Westport, accompanied by Mr. Strobel, for whom it was necessary to purchase an outfit.

24th.—We travelled during this day on the open prairie. The weather was hazy and considerable rain fell during the last twenty-four hours; we camped on the open plains for the first time. At dawn of day I was up; I found the weather perfectly clear; and in breathless expectation of seeing the sun rise, I saddled my pony, determined to ride away from the camp—made my way through the long grass, for a considerable distance, before I perceived any inclination on the part of the majestic king of day to awake from his royal couch. Gradually the eastern horizon assumed a warmer hue, while some floating clouds along its edge, developed their form against the luminous heavens. The dark grey morning tints were superseded by hues of the most brilliant and gorgeous colors, which almost as imperceptibly softened, as the glorious orb of day commenced his diurnal course, and illumined the vault above; a slight rustling of the long grass, caused by a deliciously pleasant zephyr, which made it move in gentle undulation, was all that disturbed the mysterious silence that prevailed. I alighted from my pony, and gave him the range of his lariat. I perceived, that he preferred a breakfast of fresh grass, to the contemplation of the sublime scene around me, in which be seemed totally indifferent.

My heart beat with fervent anxiety, and whilst I felt happy, and free from the usual care end trouble, I still could not master the nervous debility which seized me while surveying the grand and majestic works of nature. Was it fear? no; it was the conviction of my own insignificance, in the midst of the stupendous creation; the undulating grass seemed to carry my thoughts on its rolling surface, into an impenetrable future;—glorious in inconceivable beauty, extended over me, the ethereal tent of heaven, my eye losing its power of distant vision, seemed to reach down only to the verdant sea before me.

There was no one living being present with whom I could share my admiration. Still life, unceasing eternal life, was everywhere around me. I was far way from the comforts of my home, not even in sight of a wigwam of the aboriginal inhabitants of the forests.

A deep sigh of longing for the society of man wrested itself from my breast. Shall I return, and not accomplish the object of my journey? No. I cannot; does not the grass, glittering in the morning dew in the unbroken rays of the sun, beckon me a pleasant welcome over its untrodden surface. I will onward, and trust to the Great Spirit, who lives in every tree and lonely flower, for my safe arrival at the dwelling of my fellowmen, far beyond the invisible mountains over which my path now lies.

27th.--To-day we met our Delawares, who were awaiting our arrival. A more noble set of Indians I never saw, the most of them six feet high, all mounted and armed cap-a-pie, under command of Captain Wolff, a "Big Indian," as he called himself. Most of them spoke English, and all understood it. "Washington," "Welluchas," Solomon," "Moses," were the names of some of the principal chiefs. They became very much attached to Col. Fremont, and every one of them would have ventured his life for him.

Near the principal town of the Pottawatomies we remained encamped until the end of September, awaiting Col. Fremont. Two or three stores with no assortment of goods, and about thirty shanties make up the town. I went to every house in the place for a breakfast, but  could out get anything to eat except some Boston crackers, ten pounds of which (the whole supply in the town) I bought. My ride into the town was for the purpose of having strong boxes made to carry my daguerreotype apparatus. The baskets in which they had been packed being broken and unfit for use. There was not a carpenter, nor any tools to be had in town. There was a blacksmith's about ten miles from town, where it was likely I could procure them. It being absolutely necessary that I should have the boxes, I induced one of our Delawares to accompany me, carrying on our horses a sufficient quantity of dry goods box covers and aides to manufacture them. When we arrived at the blacksmith's house, the proprietor was absent. His wife, an amiable woman, prepared dinner for us, and gave us the run of the workshop where I found a saw and hatchet; with these instruments I made the boxes myself, and by the time they were finished, the blacksmith returned. He refused to receive pay for my dinner, but charged for the nails, raw hide, etc., I covered the boxes with, and the use of his tools. The lady told me I was the first white man she had seen, except her husband, in three years. I gave some silver to the children, and mounting our horses, with a huge box before us on our saddles, we slowly retraced our way to camp, where we arrived at dark.

Nobody in camp knew my errand to town, and I never shall forget the deep mortification and astonishment of our muleteers when they saw my boxes. All their bright hopes that the apparatus would have to be left, were suddenly dissipated. The expenses attendant on the manufacture of the boxes, and the material, were nearly five dollars, which I requested our quarter-muster to pay, as Col. Fremont left him money for disbursement; he refused, at first, but was finally induced to do so under protest. I have every reason to believe that my baskets were purposely destroyed; and but for my watchful and unceasing care, they would have been rendered useless. The packing of the apparatus was attended with considerable trouble to the muleteers, and also to the officer whose duty it was to superintend the loading and unloading of the mules; and they all wanted to be rid of the labor. Hence the persecution to which I was subjected on this account. Complaints were continually being made to Col. Fremont, during the journey, that the weights of the boxes were not equalized. Twice I picked up on the road the tin case containing my buff, &c., which had slipped off the mules, from careless packing--done purposely; for if they had not been fortunately found by me, the rest of the apparatus would have been useless. On one occasion, the keg containing alcohol was missing; Col. Fremont sent back after it, and it was found half emptied on the road.

I am induced to make these remarks to show the perseverance and watchfulness I had to exercise to prevent the destruction of the apparatus by our own men.

Go Back Index Next Chapter